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Must Visit Locations

National Parks in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Wildlife (Wild Life)

Sri Lanka National Parks: 13 % of Sri Lanka's landmass is protected as national parks. The most important parks are:

* Bundala National Park (between Hambantota and Kataragama)
* Gal Oya National Park (north of Yala)
* Horton Plains National Park (in the southwestern mountains)
* Lahugala National Park (west of Pottuvil)
* Uda Walawe National Park (near Hambantota)
* Udawattakele Wildlife Sanctuary (northeast of Kandy)
* Peak Wilderness Man and Biosphere Reserve (at Adam's Peak)
* Lion King (Sinharaja) Tropical Rain Forest (between Ratnapura and Matara) (World Heritage Site)
* Wilpattu National Park (northeast area of Sri Lanka)
* Wirawila Bird Sanctuary (near Tissamaharama)
* Ruhuna Yala National Park (near Tissamaharama)
* Kumana Bird Sanctuary (part of Yala) once acclaimed by Readers Digest as the best nesting and breeding environment in the world

* Minneriya National Park (near Polonnaruwa)
* Kaudulla National Park (near Polonnaruwa)
* Wasgomuwa National Park (near Polonnaruwa)

Sinhalese Heritage of Wildlife Protection
Oh! Great King, the birds of the air & the beasts have an equal right to live & move about in any part of this land as thou. The lands belongs to the peoples & all other beings & thou art only the guardian of it" said Arahat Mahinda to King Devanam Piya Tissa, the famous "Deer Hunter" (307-266 BC)

Sri Lanka's heritage of wildlife protection runs as far back as 2200 years. The first (fauna & flora) wildlife sanctuary in world at Mihintale, 12 km east of UNESCO World heritage Site of Anuradhapura was created by the King Devanampiya Tissa (Sinhala: dear to the gods) (307-266 BC), following the arrival of Buddhism to the island from northern India. With the establishment of Buddhism in ancient Sri Lanka in 250 BC, it became a Royal prerogative to carry out everything humanly possible to spread the doctrine throughout the island.

Throughout the history of the nation, all animals & plants in the wildlife sanctuaries of the island were left undisturbed in line with the basic right to life of all beings & conservation ethics of Buddhism, the taking of life being anathema to Buddhist beliefs. Renewal of laws giving protection to animals had been renewed and reinforced time and again by the kings of ancient Sri Lanka. Records of the wildlife protection are found in the great Sinhalese chronicle of Mahawamsa. A fine example is a twelfth century edict of King Nissanka Malla "ordering by beat of drum that no animal should be killed within a radius of 7 leagues of the city of Anuardhapura, he gave security to animals; he gave security to the fish in the 12 great tanks... and he also gave security to birds." Those were the wild life sanctuaries of the old.

Destruction of Wildlife by the British Colonialists in Sri Lanka
The noble tradition of wildlife protection had existed even during the era of King Parakrambahu the Great (1164-1107 AD) when Sri Lanka was known as Granary of the Orient. Though the cultivation of crops had always been well protected from the wild elephants and all other wild beasts, the governing rules on the Sri Lanka wildlife had never been relaxed. However the tradition had been broken by the European invaders of Sri Lanka: Portuguese, Dutch and English since the year 1505, the year of the arrival of Portuguese. The worst period of all was the era of British occupation (1805-1948) of Sri Lanka: there were no legal protection of wildlife at all; worse still, the introduction of guns and ammunition and the euphemism 'sport', set in motion irreversible damage to Sri Lanka Wildlife.

In the meantime, elsewhere in the world National Parks (North America, 1872) and Game reserves (Africa, 1898) had been introduced. But then those weren't for the protection of the wildlife of the concerned countries but for the purposes of the people. The Banff National Park in Canada (1885) was "declared to the people of Canada, for the benefit, education and enjoyment". The Yellowstone National Park was established as a pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.

In the year 1909, following long decades of destruction of wildlife and birdlife of Sri Lanka, i.e. slaughter of wild elephants, deer, stags, wild boars etc. and birds, the first colonial legislation was instituted to create Game Sanctuaries and Resident Sportsmen's reserves. The Royal edicts of the old, protecting wildlife were replaced by ordinance that served no purpose to the villagers and the cultivators but served well to the so called sportsmen, the British colonialists of Sri Lanka. In the year 1926, when it become clear that neither the Ordinance nor the administration is capable of protecting the Sri Lanka Wildlife, another Ordinance called Game Protection Ordinance was introduced. The game protection Ordinance too failed to serve the cause of wildlife in Sri Lanka.

Protection of Sri Lanka wild life during 1934-1964
And it was only in the year 1934 that the first corrective measure was taken by then Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Mr. D. S. Senanayake (1884- 1952). D. S. Senanayake rescinded the earlier "Game" laws and embodied them in a new Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, thus shifting the emphasis from Game to Wildlife. In 1938 Game Sanctuaries were abolished and for the first time in Sri Lanka National Parks came into existence. However the establishment of Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka came into being only in 1950. That was under the Wardenship of Mr. C. W. Nicolas. In 1964, Sri Lanka suspended issuance of licenses to shoot game.

Sri Lanka's Wild life protection today
For a country with one of the highest population densities in the world (304 people per square miles), the island is also remarkable in that 13% of its land area is designated for wildlife & nature conservation. Today's system of parks & reserves is mostly a synthesis of traditionally protected areas & those established by the British colonial rulers. By the time, British got rid of their blood sport called "game" (meaning blasting the mammals & birds to the death) & the Buddhist conservation ethics were codified, thousands of elephants along with other mammals had already been slaughtered in the island of Ceylon. Today, Sri Lanka has 16 national parks protected by the government, divided into 4 types: Strict natural reserves; National parks; Nature reserves; Sanctuaries.

Strict natural reserves
These are exclusively reserved for wildlife. Entry permits are issued only to those engaged in official or scientific work. Even in such instances, permits can be obtained only from the Director of Wildlife Conservation himself. Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve, Strict Natural Reserve of Yala East (Kumana), Hakagala Strict Natural Reserve

National parks
Ruhunu (Yala) national park, Udawalwe national park, Wilpattu national park, Wasgomuwa national park, Flood Plains national park, Minneriya national park, Maduru Oya national park, Gal Oya national park, Horton Plains national park, Bundala national park, Somawatiya Chaitiya national park, Yala East national park, Lahugala Kithulana national park, Lunugamvehera national park, Kaudulla national park & Horagolla national park.

Nature reserves
Nature reserves are primarily for wildlife. Human activity in these reserves is restricted. Lion King (Sinharaja) Tropical Rain Forest is one of the many nature reserves of the island.

Some of the 50 sanctuaries are located in private lands. Though wildlife is well protected, limited human activity within the sanctuaries are allowed in so as wildlife is respected. Bellanwila Attidiya Sanctuary, Udawattekele Bird Sanctuary in Kandy, Muturajawela Marshes (Colombo Wetlands).

Enjoying Sri Lanka Holidays wildlife
Enjoying Sri Lanka Holidays wildlife isn't confined to Sri Lanka Wildlife Parks and Sri Lanka Wildlife Sancturies. Wildlife is a feature in the countryside, especially in the North Central Plains Dry Zone. The gardens of the tourist hotels in Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Triangle are abound with the wildlife seen in the rural areas of Sri Lanka such as Monkeys, mongoose, squirrels, rabbits water monitors, land monitors etc.

Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Triangle and the Wild life Parks immediately around it
For an ancient island of 2550+ civilization having cultural attractions of great significance spread all over the totality of its territory, the concept of a geographically demarcated triangle could hardly present an accurate cross section of its cultural treasures. And that is in a way to incorrectly imply the numerous other cultural attractions of Sri Lanka are of lesser significance than those within the Cultural triangle. Cultural Triangle is a concept adopted merely for the touristic purposes enabling the Sri Lanka Holiday makers to visit the major cultural sites concentrated in the north central dry zones. Since the Cultural Triangle encompass no less than five of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka (6 Cultural, 2 wildlife and nature), in a touristic perspective, it is an added contribution to the notion of time and motion in Sri Lanka Holidays tour packages.

The Cultural triangle is bounded to the north by Anuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Mihintale and to the south by Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Site located 216km north east of Colombo) with Sigiriya Rion Rock Citadel (UNESCO World Heritage Site located 169km north east of Colombo) and Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site located 148km north east of Colombo) in the middle of the triangle. While all these tourist attractions are located in the North Central plains that is expansively and ingeniously irrigated dry zone called ancient Sri Lanka's Rajarata (Sinhala: King's Kingdom), to the south is Matale home to Aluvihara Temple where the Tripitaka (Sinhala: three books) and its attakatha (Sinhala: commentaries on the text) of Buddhism was committed to writing by 500 Buddhist monk for the first time in the ancient Buddhist world. That was at the behest of lion-hearted King Watta Gamini Abhya (Valagambahu), during his second reign (89-76 BC).

The southernmost point of the Cultural Triangle is the gateway to the Central Highland of Kandy (UNESCO World Heritage Site located 115km to the east of Colombo), the gateway to the Central Highlands, the medieval retreat of Sinhalese following the fall of the great capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

Surrounding Polonnaruwa are some of major Sri Lanka National Parks and sanctuaries of Sri Lanka that affords the opportunity witness large herds of wild elephants by the great ancient irrigation reservoirs. Minneriya-Giritale National Park (7529ha) is located just 20km north-west of Polonnaruwa, Moreover to the northwest is Minneriya National Park where the world renowned phenomenon of seasonal congregation of Sri Lanka elephants called The Gathering of Sri Lanka Holidays takes place.

Wasgamuwa (Wasgomuwa) National Park 225 km away from Colombo straddles sizeable areas of Polonnaruwa distrct as well as Matale district. Immediately to the northeast of Wasgamuwa (Wasgomuwa) National Park (37062 ha) is Flood Plains National Park (17,350ha).

Mammals, reptiles and birds
Mammals, reptiles and birds generally met during a sojourn in the countryside of Sri Lanka as well as in the excursion into the wildlife parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) called Aliya, Athini (cow) and Atha (tusker) in Sinhalese
Sri Lanka elephants are found mostly in the northern, eastern and south-0eastern lowland dry zones of Sri Lanka. It is believed that, at the turn of the twentieth century there were an estimated 30,000 elephants were roaming around the vast forests of the low country dry zone but the bulk of those forests have now been denuded. The first-ever nation-wide elephant census in Sri Lanka carried out in the year 2011 found that there are about 7,379 wild elephants in the country. As many as 5,879 of them were spotted near Sri Lanka wildlife parks and sanctuaries and another 1,500 were estimated to be living in other areas. Up until forty decades ago all elephants in Sri Lanka were born. Captive breeding by the National Zoological Gardens at Dehiwala close to Mount Lavinia in Colombo district and the renowned Pinnawela Elphant Orphanage at Pinnawela off Kegalle on the Colombo-Kandy road is a recent development.

Sri Lanka's Deer
Sri Lanka Spotted Deer (Axis axis ceylonensis) called Tik-muwa in Sinhalese
Barking Deer (Munctiacus muntjak malabaricus) called Olua-muwa or Welli-muwas
Sambhur (Cervus unicolor unicolor) called Gona
Mouse Deer (Tragulus meminna) called Meminna, Capita-meeminna or Wal-miya

Sri Lanka's Monkeys
Grey Langur (Presbytis entellus thersites) called Vandhura, Konda-vandhura or Elli-vandhura in Sinhalese
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (Tachypithecus vectulus) called Kalu-vandhura
Toque Monkey (Macaca sinica sinica) called Rilawa

Sri Lanka's Reptiles
Sri Lanka Swamp Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris kimbula) called Hale-kimbula or Ala kimbula in Sinhalese
Sri Lanka Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus meniyanna) called Pita-gatteya or Gatte-kimbula
The Indian Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis bengalensis) called Talagoya
The Water Monitor (Varanus monitor kabaragoya) called Kabaragoya

Sri Lanka's large mammals
Indian Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis bubalis) called Wal mee-haraka, Wal-harak or Wal-meewah in Sinhalese
Sri Lanka Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) called Kotiya or Diviya
Sri Lanka Sloth Bear (Melarsus ursinus inoratus) called Walaha
Indian Wild Boar (Sus scrofa cristatus) called Wal-ura

Sri Lanka's cats, otters, mongoose, squirrels etc.
Indian Fishing cats (Felis viverrinas) called Handun-diviya in Sinhalese
Sri Lanka Jungle Cat (Felis chaus kelaarti)) called Walballa
Sri Lanka Rusty-spotted Cat (Felis rubiginosa phillipsi) called Kola-diviya
Southern Indian Otter (Lura lutra nair) called Diy-balla in Sinhalese
The Common Sri Lanka Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii lanka) called Mugatiya
Sri Lanka Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithii zeylanicus) called Hotamba
Stripped-necked Mongoose (Herpestes vitticollis) called Gul-mugatiya
Brown Mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) called Mugatiya or Ram-mugatiya
Sri Lanka Small Civet-Cat (Viverricula indica mayori ) called Urulaeva
Golden Palm-Cat (Paradoxurus zeylonensis) called Kalawedda
Common Indian Palm-Cat (Paradoxurus hermaphrodites hermaphroditus) called Ugguduwa
Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura) called Dandulena
Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus) called Unahapuluva
Indian Pangolin (Mania crassicaudata) called Kaba-laya
Indian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica) called Ittawa
Common Flying fox (Pteropus giganteus giganteus) called Maha-wawula
Sri Lanka Black-Naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis singhala) called Hawa
Star Tortoise (Testude elegans) called Mayvara ibba, Hooniam ibba, Vairam ibba, Tharuka ibba, Mukalan ibba, Makaral ibba or Vatekeya ibba in Sinhalese
Hard Terrapin or Terrapin (Melanochelys trjuga) called Nariya, Hiwala
Soft Terrapin (Lissemys punctata ceylonensis) called Kiri ibba
Sri Lanka Jackal (Canis aureus lanka) called Nariya, Hiwala

Peacocks, painted stork, many varieties of heron, spoonbill, bee-eater, parrots & parakeets, hornbill, kingfisher, woodpecker and many more.


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Photo Gallery

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Bundala National Park

Horton Plains National Park

Kaudulla National Park

Minneriya National Park

Lahugala National Park

Ruhuna Yala National Park

Uda Walawe National Park

Wasgomuwa National Park

Sinharaja Tropical Rain Forest

Kumana Bird Sanctuary

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